Youth

Youth is a tribute to my paternal grandparents who – when I was a child – seemed to come from another world because they were so much older than me. My visits to them in the village were a mix of fear because I didn't fully understand the deep Shona they spoke and I would get things wrong and receive a scolding; but there was a mix of excitement because they told wonderful stories round the fire and they gave me glimpses into their world. 

 

When we were young our grandfather was tall.

A baobab tree unbending, fixed. 

Even when winds blew he remained

unmoved. Face gnarled by weather, 

we were wild with wonder watching him,

for he seemed to have no beginning.

Like an ancient who had torn a shred in time and stepped

into our season to impart some great wisdom

in words we could not understand, 

he would scold us in deep Shona, resplendent

with metaphor and rhyme; for climbing

on a pile of sand he had ordered for bricks 

he needed to make and for singing, 

singing in English (he did not understand)

that we were kings, kings of the castle. 

Everyone else was a filthy rascal.

But somehow we knew that we should climb down,

descend from our heatstroke-highs of thinking

that his language was holding us 

back from taking off, soaring 

into brilliant blue skies and nesting 

with go-away birds in mango trees on his land.





When I was young, my grandmother was bent

over from ploughing red earth in fields

to plant sweet potatoes, peanuts and tomatoes.

Her back curved taut like a hand-crafted wooden bow 

waiting for a poisoned arrow to fly,

but she moved swift and agile like a lioness prowling prey

as she gathered firewood in the forest,

her bare feet grudgingly receiving caresses from

soil, grass, thorns and stones.

She spoke in powerful whispers telling me to blow.

Blow on embers and throw on kindling,

blow until smoke filled the round, thatched, mud hut.

Blow, I told you to blow.

I would hear her strong teeth kiss and in Shona

(I could understand) she would tell me to move,

move aside. Then, like a marvellous magician 

her breath would conjure flames from ash, 

food from fire and as the smoke cleared, 

she was transformed into a queen 

reigning over her domain of clay pots and fire.

Glorious in her power to cook in that kitchen

and feed her own.






Fungisayi Sasa is a Zimbabwean writer based in the United Kingdom.

Writing as a means of expression and understanding the world around me has always been a part of my childhood. My family members especially my parents and grandparents always told stories in a rich, vivid way which removed the necessity for television in those precious moments that they recounted a folktale or remembered an event from their lives.

I grew up hearing traditional Shona folktales told by the fire by my grandparents and my father always encouraged my siblings and I to borrow books from the library, so we wouldn’t spend our time in front of the television. This fueled my imagination and passion for literature, especially fiction.

I found the greatest pleasure in crafting a poem about what one of my siblings had done to me or a short story plotting their demise. As I grew older, the desire to create new worlds or convey my thoughts through words never left. My work has appeared on Poetry International, Words Etc {first quarter 2010}, New Voices Wagon Project 2014, and more recently New Myths Magazine. I have also published a children’s book The Search for the Perfect Head and my short stories have appeared in the short story collections Writing Lives {2013} and Writing Free {2011}.